I’m delighted to introduce my first guest blogger, Ken Wert of Meant to be Happy, winner of The Best Personal Development Blog 2011.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~ Gandhi
Happiness is no arbitrary emotion.
Granted, happiness may often be experienced as a fleeting condition, but it is not due to some unpredictable set of circumstances that spontaneously creates it then equally spontaneously runs off with it.
Happiness is, in fact, the predictable result of the correct and consistent application of certain timeless principles of thought, attitude, belief and behavior.
In other words, human happiness is largely a product of choice. We can simply choose to be happy. But what does that mean in light of the obstacles to happiness that so often get in the way of the experience?
Following, are three of those obstacles that can limit happiness and ways we can grant ourselves permission to be happy anyway.
Obstacle #1: Dwelling on Negatives
Roses come with thorns. Sunshine gives us life and sunburns. People are dual natured with both character strengths and character flaws. Spring indiscriminately brings us flowers and weeds. Cars transport us to our families and they sometimes crash into them. Parents give their children life and they give them neurotic complexes as well.
In other words, life is a mixed bag.
Just about every good has an element of bad somehow connected to it. Almost all positives have a negative flipside. Every silver lining has its cloud. All light has at its outer edge, darkness.
But here’s the thing: We have the power to pick which side to pay attention to. What we choose to focus on determines the level of happiness we experience even as roses prick fingers and sun burns skin and parents parent imperfectly.
It’s our choice to see the flower or the weeds below it. The direction of our gaze determines our view. We can choose to focus on what we love or what we hate at work. We choose to pay attention to the ugliness of the nightly news or the goodness played out everyday in our neighborhoods and families.
The choice is ours and ours alone. It’s in the tilt of our heads, the perspective we choose to look on life with, the condition of our thoughts and the quality of our choices.
And still so many people choose to pick and criticize, complain, whine, moan and groan about all that’s ugly and negative around them. They forget that rain brings more than wetness and cold. It also brings life. They forget that our challenges bring more than pain and sorrow and difficulty. They can provide us opportunities to build character and inner strength as well.
We so often and too easily forget to recognize that there is so much more than the things we don’t like in life. While the rose does indeed have thorns, every thorn is also attached to the branch or stem of a rose. You see, it’s all in the way we choose to see things.
So grant yourself permission to be happy, right now. Simply allow life to be the mess it often is with all its dual conditions of something good associated with something undesirable. We can choose to see the ugly, dirty side of life or the birth of beauty that so often springs out of the muck and mire.
Obstacle #2: Self-Doubt
We may have been raised by critical parents. Or perhaps we were compared to a sibling or neighbor. Maybe it’s the media constantly showing us what we’re not. Or possibly it’s just a part of our flawed natures. But whatever its source, we are very good at doubting ourselves.
The problem, of course, is that self-doubt often leads to immobility. We stop and hesitate and stutter in our steps toward the life we dream of.
But we can give ourselves permission to act in the face of our doubts. We can grant ourselves the right to be human. We can grant ourselves permission to doubt, and then rise above those doubts, letting doubt have its say, then ignoring its plea to remain in the spot we’ve stayed in for too long.
And yet self-doubt seems to keep finding its way back home despite the actions we take and the growth we experience.
We look in the mirror and see flaws while we look at others and see only perfection. We feel uncomfortable, sometimes even within our own comfort zones. We secretly think others are better, prettier, cooler, smarter. Our insides ache to overcome our insecurities and yet they seem to follow us wherever we go.
We look at the facts and see the results and know the meaning of so many parts of who we are and what we’ve done cracked and broken on the sidewalk of our lives. There is a map, a history, an autobiographical reality we can look at and weigh and measure and in each category of life, it’s clear that we just don’t measure up.
And so what!
It simply doesn’t matter. At all. So give yourself permission to be imperfect. I know I don’t look like Brad Pitt or think like Albert Einstein or have the success of Bill Gates!
And chances are that you don’t look like a super model or dress like a movie star or play piano like a concert pianist or have the character of Mother Teresa. What’s it all mean?
Oh yeah, NOTHING!
Grant yourself the permission needed to simply be who you are at this moment! Learn. Grow. Improve. But accept yourself today as you learn and grow.
In the end, we can dwell on what we don’t have and don’t like or on what we do have and do like. Neither attitude will change reality. But the former certainly changes the way we feel about it.
Obstacle #3: Trials and Tribulations
Mom may have hit you. Or maybe dad abused you. Life crashed and pinched you into a corner and just kept beating and beating and beating down on you in a relentless avalanche of adversity. And so no one really understands you. No one can fully empathize with you. Life hurts and is unfair and you feel it just couldn’t care less about you.
And some of that very well may be true. Still, life is full of two kinds of abused people: Those who define their reality by the abuse they experienced and those who tuck it away on a back shelf and create a new reality for themselves that is much bigger and more compelling than their abuse ever dreamt of becoming.
You have permission to live your life free of the shackles of the past. You have permission to stand and punch your way through the challenges of life, no longer letting history predict your future.
Grant yourself the permission needed to discard old, worn-out thoughts and replace them with new, vibrant ones, ones focused on the rose, the warmth of the sun and what is happening here, right now.
See the birds singing, the kids laughing, the music playing. Be filled with gratitude that the heart is pumping, the eyes seeing, your thoughts still, calm, at peace, focused on the moment, on what’s happening now, around you, above you, under your feet, inside the miracle called your body, between you and the person you’re with.
As you focus on now, yesterday and all its disappointments and even its horrors are replaced by a simple joy, a single thread of recognition strung into an eternal point called The Present.
Each present moment evaporating into the next present moment, leaves no room to mourn over a former life no longer directly under your feet.
Obstacles abound. Detours litter the road of life. Some of that road will be washed out, muddy, swampy, precariously dangerous. But happiness is not a prize waiting at the end of the road. It can be carried with us as we travel it, safely tucked away in the chambers of our hearts.
But how does it get there? We give ourselves permission to hold it there by virtue of the choices we make in spite of the challenges we face. In other words, we grant ourselves permission.
Ken Wert is a teacher and personal development blogger at Meant to be Happy where he inspires readers to live with purpose, act with character, think with clarity and grow with courage. Sign up for his free eBook, A Walk Through Happiness and newsletter! Connect with him on Twitter.
10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) is a program to help us develop habits to grow a joyful spirit. Many of us sabotage our happiness by habits that we might not even be aware of. Identifying and changing these habits can build a reservoir of well-being to enhance our happy times and sustain us during challenging times.
Friday, March 2, 2012
You Can Choose Happiness Despite the Obstacles
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Great post Galen! Happiness is a feeling I get....that sometimes (and these are the best ever) when I realize there isn't one major thing causing my happiness...I'm just happy to be HAPPY! Another "Happy person blogger friend" I follow posted a great quote that completes your lovely post today, if I may leave it with you too...ReplyDelete
"When we recall the past, we usually find that it is the simplest things - not the great occasions that in retrospect give the greatest glow of happiness!" - Bob Hope (of course)
That's a great quote by Bob Hope, Karen. Thanks so much for sharing it. I especially like this: "I'm just happy to be HAPPY!" The simple things, the daily things, the most important things are the best sources of happiness. Thanks for reminding us!Delete
Karen, That is a great quote, as Ken noted. Glad you enjoyed Ken's post.Delete
thanks so much Galen! There's a lot of meat here to chew on. blessingsReplyDelete
Nan, Ken's posts always are full of "nutrition"! Blessings back to you.Delete
You guys are making me hungry! :) Just be sure to swallow some of it! When my daughter was a little girl, she used to chew on a piece of meat until all the flavor was gone, then spit it out. Lots of chewing; no benefits from the food. There's probably a lesson in there somewhere! ;)Delete
Were you inside my mind just now?? Three of you came at me back to back. I have no more excuses!ReplyDelete
Ha! I know Ken's posts are very good, but I didn't know he was psychic! I have a whole new level of appreciation for him.Delete
Haha! Psycho, maybe. So glad you found value in my article. We are good at making excuses though, aren't we!Delete
I get those little jolts to reality all the time. My wife is good at bringing me to the realization that I've plateaued long enough. Good luck taking whatever steps are needed to take you to the next level!
Wow Galen. What a motivating piece from Ken. I am all fired up after reading it so I'll be reading more of Ken's wise words.ReplyDelete
Claire, You won't be sorry. Ken always has something worthwhile to say.Delete
Thanks Claire! You made my day! I always get a thrill when I write something that seems to provide that little "umph" to someone's day. Hope it lasts!Delete
I look forward to "hearing" from you!!!
Ah, cool Ken again! And what a topic - you have a wonderful knack for addressing the right stuff and expressing it exactly the way one would like to hear it, Ken. The points you described are very close to my heart. Self-doubt is the worst acid that can eat us up inside. And yet, we are blessed with the power of choice.ReplyDelete
Superb post,Ken. And believing as I do that happiness is a DIY project (oh yes, I say it all the time, I know) I enjoyed reading it so much.
Thank you, Galen - I love visiting you.
Vidya, Yes, Ken is cool indeed! Thanks for the kind words. I love visiting your blog, too.Delete
I'm going to quote you for ammunition when I go try to convince my high school students that I AM cool! So far, they just haven't believed me! Not sure what that could possibly mean. :)Delete
Vidya, that's a great line: "Self-doubt is the worst acid that can eat us up inside." It truly is an acid that melts resolve and commitment and follow-through. We're then stuck in the mud of life, wishing for something more, sinking deeper in our own doubts and fears.
Thanks for the wonderful insight here, Vidya.
Wow... that's a truckload of obstacles... no wonder people default to unhappy LOL Well said Ken. And a great reminder. Thank you. And thank you Galen for featuring Ken and introducing him here to us all :-)ReplyDelete
Jean, I'm happy to make the introduction. Yes, these are some major obstacles, so I'm glad there are ways around or through them.Delete
Galen is a dear cyber-friend I've come to deeply respect and cherish, as I can see her readers do too. So it's my pleasure and honor to be featured here.Delete
But you spoke the truth, Jean. There are many internal barriers to happiness. So many people look outside themselves for answers to their unhappy lives. And so they wait for something that can never arrive on its own without some initiative.
It can't be found in the promotion or the new house, or the record deal, or fame, or the changed set of circumstances. It's all inside, a DIY project, to quote Vidya above.
Hi Ken and Galen,ReplyDelete
Happiness begins on the inside. If we work on our thoughts and learning to interpret situations in a positive way and look for the lessons, then we will be on the path to happiness. You have some really good points. Thanks for sharing ;)
Dia, Look for the lessons. That is a great approach to challenges.Delete
Hey there Dia! I think that attitude of looking for the lessons in life is so critical to our happiness. It really requires a new way of looking at life. It removes us from automatic pilot thinking and puts the controls back in our hands as we choose a new perspective, one that will allow even the worst of situations to become our teacher, adding value to our lives, even if the pain isn't welcome.Delete
Great point, Dia. I appreciate the insight.
Galen: Thank you. I will check out Ken's site.ReplyDelete
JJ, I'm sure you will like it!Delete
Thanks JJ! Hope you leave a comment too and say hello!Delete
Thank you Ken and Galen - wonderful personal development post and yes it is all choice.ReplyDelete
It's the way we chose to see life and all it's happenings. You can look at the same thing and have different perspectives - I chose the perspective that is positive....WHY not?
In living with an attitude of gratitude,
Nancy, The power to choose. We all have it, but sometimes we don't realize that we do. So without thinking, we choose to be the victim. We can choose instead to look from a positive perspective, as you say.Delete
Hi Nancy. I love that phrase: "an attitude of gratitude." If we can cultivate that way of looking at things, habituating that way of thinking, it will very literally revolutionize most people's lives. They will have more and deeper happiness and of a more consistent and pervasive kind. But Galen nailed it on the head too. It is a choice (or millions of choices over time). Thanks for sharing, Nancy. Loved your comment!Delete
I absolutely love this article about giving ourselves the permission to be happy. It is really a choice. It is a choice to view life as one filled with tremendous meaning and up to to us to create happiness.ReplyDelete
Evelyn, Like Einstein said, we can choose to see everything as a miracle, or nothing as a miracle. Like you, I'll choose happiness.Delete
Hi Evelyn! So glad you liked it! We really do create happiness by starting with ourselves and creating a life that is loving, forgiving, kind, patient, positive, optimistic, grateful and compassionate. WE choose happiness by choosing to live our lives well.Delete
Thanks for the wisdom here, Evelyn. Much of our lives fall squarely in the palms of our own hands.
I sometimes have to just give myself permission to be "neutral"...I seem to be in a pause in my life or fallow field state which involves thinking through my life and analyzing towards letting go. I also believe that I have found confronting the positive and negative feelings head on is freeing...ReplyDelete
Reading Jill Bolte __(Taylor?)___ (? for got last name) book My Stroke of Insight is so instructive about we are only angry for 90seconds...then it begins to slough off and then we can chose the next 90 seconds to be happy...not wallow in either state...We have learned so much about the neuroplasticity of the brain and how the gut is more accurate - exciting times and good words Mr. Wert
Thank you for sharing Galen
Patricia, I read that the lifespan of any emotion is about 90 seconds, just like you said. After that, it fades unless we give it more energy. I was so surprised to learn that.Delete
Exciting times indeed, Patricia! The brain certainly is a fascinating wad of tissue between our ears. So amazingly powerful to shape the way we experience the world. And then the gut, our intuition or inspiration or thin slicing or whatever we want to call it, all so very fascinating.Delete
I haven't read that book yet, but will look into it. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Ken and Galen,ReplyDelete
I wish I had been born one of those naturally "see the good in all things" people but nope! Once I knew that, as a general tenet of existence, ALL people are equal, everything changed. I had to really give thought to what exactly was going on in our hearts and minds. It is utterly and completely how you choose to see it.
Julie, Like you, I wasn't born seeing things that way. I had to learn it. Now I can't believe I lived so long in fear, seeing everything as negative and dangerous.Delete
Hi Julie, I was probably somewhere in the middle myself. Not altogether positive and not altogether negative. Still, it was something I conscientiously worked on until it became second nature. And like you, Galen, now I can hardly believe I ever saw life and myself and others any differently.Delete
Carrie, I agree. Ken is excellent. As my son James says -- Excellamente!Delete
Thank you so much, Carrie. So glad I struck a chord.Delete
Hi Galen! Yay! I'm finally back online. Thanks for being so patient with my absence. It turned out that the internet fix was pretty simple. The IT guy walked me through the process and here I am, reconnected to the cyberworld.ReplyDelete
I just wanted to thank you so much for the wonderful opportunity to be featured here. You have a great site, great readers/commenters, and you are a great person and friend.
Ken, You rock! You can see from the comments that your article is valuable and valued. Thank you so much for taking time in your busy schedule to share this article on my blog. And yes, I am honored by great readers/commenters. They rock, too! Thanks for your kind words.Delete
I'm thrilled to see Ken's post on your site. He is inspirational and his feelings are heartfelt. And he's right. Your site is excellent.
Ken...my favorite phrase...Each present moment evaporating into the next present moment, leaves no room to mourn over a former life no longer directly under your feet.....
JUST BEAUTIFUL!! Have you ever thought of writing poetry?
Really (I'm not joking!) :) Fran
Hi Fran! Thank you so much for the kind words. I'm floating on cloud nine (odd saying, actually, but hopefully used correctly here).Delete
Actually, when I was younger I did do quite a bit of poetry writing. Nowadays, all my poetic flourishes are saved for my wife and mom. :)
Fran, I agree, Ken does have a special way with words. Thanks for your kind comment.Delete
More than insightful, Ken. This blog goes to the heart of what is probably the core reason for unhappiness in many lives. Very well expressed. I hope this blog goes far and wide, and touches many people.ReplyDelete
And I have to tell your followers: Ken's poetry began when he was just a boy, and filled many of my Mother's Days and birthdays through the years with tears of joy and love. Thank you son.
Hi Mom! Thank you so much. You've always been my greatest fan ... no matter what I'm doing ... well, since I've been an adult, anyway. :)Delete
We won't tell anyone the poetry was just a cheap son's way of not having to pay for REAL cards! Haha! All from the heart to an amazing Mom and an amazing person.
Ken's Mom, Greetings and welcome. Your comment and your son's response made my day. So sweet. It's easy to see where Ken's good heart comes from.Delete
Thanks Galen. You're right, by the way. My Mom IS responsible for laying the foundation of whatever goodness I have in my heart. She really is an amazing person.Delete